Brooks Koepka Said There Was ‘No Other Option,’ Then Miraculously Found LIV Golf
Brooks Koepka must need a nap. A week ago, he told reporters, he’d barely heard of LIV Golf; on Tuesday morning he reportedly committed to joining the Saudi Arabia–funded tour. In between he stumbled to 55th place at the U.S. Open as reporters distracted him with unfair questions. What an exhausting seven days!
Or — this is a wild conspiracy theory, but bear with us — maybe Koepka knew all along what he wanted to do but lacked the courage of his convictions to deal with the fallout. But that would never happen, especially for a man who described himself this way on Friday: “I’m pretty confident, but I feel like everybody should be confident in themselves, and if you’re not — people hate confidence. That’s why people aren’t a big fan of me.”
He has given himself an opportunity to test that theory. Fans in Brookline, Massachusetts, last week did not seem to turn on Phil Mickelson, who has become the most prominent face of an enterprise run by — Mickelson’s words — “scary motherf——s.” Mickelson said that, then took four months off to “work on myself.”
Koepka, 32, would prefer everyone else work on themselves. He bristled when reporters, including me, asked him last Tuesday whether he would commit to the PGA Tour.
“There’s been no other option to this point, so where else are you going to go?” he said.
Well, LIV, for one.
“As of last week,” he said. “That’s it. I wasn’t playing last week. I’m here. I’m here at the U.S. Open. I’m ready to play the U.S. Open, and I think it kind of sucks, too, you are all throwing this black cloud over the U.S. Open. It’s one of my favorite events. I don’t know why you guys keep doing that. The more legs you give it, the more you keep talking about it.”
Later he insisted, of a tour that employs his younger brother, Chase; that has reportedly paid Mickelson $200 million; and that poses an existential threat to the industry at which he makes his living, “I haven’t given it that much thought.”
Scroll to Continue
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on the U.S. Open, man. I legitimately don’t get it. I’m tired of the conversations. I’m tired of all this stuff. Like I said, y’all are throwing a black cloud on the U.S. Open. I think that sucks. I actually do feel bad for them for once because it’s a s—– situation. We’re here to play, and you are talking about an event that happened last week.”
He was reminded that LIV will continue to stage events.
“I know, but you can’t drive a car looking in the rearview mirror, can you?” he responded, incomprehensibly.
Let’s look forward. Koepka has maintained that he doesn’t care very much about golf; he just loves competition. Fortunately for him, LIV doesn’t really offer golf as we have come to understand it, with 54-hole tournaments, shotgun starts and no cut. (That format “is not a golf tournament,” Jon Rahm said last Tuesday. “It’s that simple.”)
Unfortunately for Koepka, LIV doesn’t offer the best competition, either. The top 15 players in the world remain with the PGA Tour, many of them offering passionate cases for history. (Rahm again: “I want to play against the best in the world in a format that’s been going on for hundreds of years. That’s what I want to see.” Rory McIlroy, who has emerged as the face of those who remain, said, “It means a lot, going back to history and tradition and putting your name on trophies that have the legends of the game on them. That’s really cool, and that’s something that money can’t buy. Legacy, reputation, at the end of the day that’s all you have. You strip everything away, and you’re left with how you made people feel and what people thought of you. That is important to me.” On Tuesday, Collin Morikawa tweeted, “I’ve said it since February at Riviera that I’m here to stay on the @PGATOUR and nothing has changed.”) With a few exceptions, the players who have signed on with LIV so far are mostly past their prime or recovering from injury.
Koepka also might find the quality of life different from what he imagined. He fancies himself an iconoclast. “You tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it,” he told SI in 2018. He might find that harder to achieve as an employee of the Saudi government.
He often says he cares only about the majors, of which he has won four, and LIV members still have a pathway to those. Official World Golf Ranking points help determine who is eligible to enter majors; LIV events do not at this moment earn those points. LIV CEO Greg Norman said in a Saturday interview with Fox News — surely he got his dates mixed up and did not mean to distract from the U.S. Open, which would offend Koepka — that LIV would apply this week for OWGR consideration.
Koepka, of course, did not learn of that until Sunday night, after he was done competing. Then he quickly did the math and decided to jump ship. It was good of him to wait until the U.S. Open was over. Now the only black cloud is over his career.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.